Don't Pull Plug on Magazine - Association Magazine - Association Publishing - Trade Magazine - Association Publication

Wait! Don’t Pull the Plug on that Print Magazine!

(3.5 min. read)

The battle between print versus digital rages on. In the association world, repeated surveys have shown that the print magazine is the number one, two or three benefit valued most by members. On the flip side, rising print and postage costs, paper availability and decreasing ad revenue make a sensible path forward even more challenging.

Before an association cancels their print magazine, there are dozens of things to consider. GLM has highlighted the obvious, and not so obvious below to help you make decisions based on the needs of your organization.

The first step is to answer these questions:

Audience and Engagement:

  • Who is the target audience for the print magazine?
  • What is the current readership and engagement level?
  • Are there any surveys or data on reader preferences and habits?
  • How does the magazine contribute to member engagement and retention?

Content and Value:

  • What unique content or value does the print magazine provide that cannot be easily replicated online?
  • How does the magazine align with the association’s mission and goals?
  • Are there specific types of content that are better suited for print and resonate with the audience?

Financial Impact:

  • What is the cost of producing and distributing the print magazine compared to potential revenue?
  • Are there alternative revenue streams (e.g., advertising, sponsorships) that can support the magazine?
  • How does the magazine’s financial performance compare to other association activities?

Digital Alternatives:

  • What digital platforms and channels are available to deliver similar content?
  • How successful are the association’s digital efforts in engaging the audience?
  • Can the same level of engagement and interaction be achieved through digital means?

Communication Strategy:

  • How will the cancellation of the print magazine be communicated to members?
  • What steps will be taken to ensure members transition smoothly to digital alternatives?
  • Are there plans to repurpose or archive the print magazine’s content for future reference?

The second step is to consider the value of the benefit to your members.

Membership-based entities that offer a print publishing model experience unique benefits that far exceed those of their counterparts including:
Membership retention
Dues substantiation
Advertising revenue stability
A crowd-sourced marketing model that aids the proliferation of new membership.

Magazines delivered by membership/association publishers are widely identified and consistently cited in membership surveys as the single most important, and often only tangible benefit of membership. Member commitment is not viewed as compensation for a subscription – it represents the desire for a tangible bond with the parent organization to which they belong – not subscribe to. This is especially true in associations comprising mature memberships, where the physical engagement opportunities are diminished – either due to unavailability, or declining interest due to member age. In these circumstances, association magazines constitute the primary vein through which the member receives communication about the work the organization is doing, the sharing of information, and the stories and history that link the memberships’ shared experiences to the organization’s stated purpose.

A survey conducted by AMP & the MPA found that association members who are recipients of a print publication as a function of membership:

  • Report positive perceptions of the value of their membership at substantially higher levels than those who do not receive print communication.
  • Speak positively of their membership experience within their organization at substantially higher levels than those who do not receive print communication.
  • Are much more likely to pass along information related to the organization in the form of shared clippings or through issue pass along to non-members.

These findings are all prime indicators of membership retention and growth. A separate study conducted on association membership retention found that, varying by association type, the print magazine was the #1, #2 and #3 most valued member benefit.

Asking these questions and answering them honestly can help make the hard decisions. Remember, it doesn’t need to be all or nothing. If your magazine is a monthly, perhaps reduce the print version to ten issues, taking into consideration which publication months produce the most revenue. Check out this article to read about publishers who did make the switch from print to digital:

And that’s where GLM can help! In most cases, outsourcing the publication to GLM can also save money. We serve as an asset and a proven go-to partner for all your marketing, social media, custom publishing, revenue generation and consulting needs. For more than four decades, GLM has continued to support, guide and continually improve the standard for our clients. Our hands-on customer care approach and impeccable reputation have allowed us to maintain relationships that span decades.

Give us a call today to see how we can help you – (844) GLM-2456 or visit us at